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When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

April 10th, 2024

Is this a trick question? After all, you probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals which help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Some cavities aren’t discovered until you visit our Sioux Falls, SD office, but sometimes there are clear signs that there’s a problem.

  • You have tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Your tooth changes color in spots where the enamel has decayed.
  • You might even notice enamel loss when a cavity is large enough.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, wine, fruit juices, flavored teas, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

The symptoms of tooth erosion and damaged enamel can be very similar to those caused by cavities:

  • You suffer tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Your teeth appear discolored, as the enamel thins to reveal the yellowish dentin underneath
  • You notice missing enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little pits known as cupping

You call Dr. Cody Henriksen right away if you suspect a cavity. Be just as proactive if you suspect erosion. Even though your symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from your diet leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps your saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. (A good reason to pair wine or fruits with cheese.)
  • Use a straw! This simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing your teeth in acids.
  • Drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse your mouth. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7.
  • And what about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. Cody Henriksen if you should rush for your brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give teeth time to remineralize after acids weaken them. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on your enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing your medical needs.

There’s no trick to it—watching your diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, using a fluoride toothpaste, and visiting Dental Comfort Center for regular checkups will help prevent tooth erosion. We can restore eroded enamel with bonding, veneers, or crowns if the erosion is serious. Better still is to catch erosion before symptoms appear to keep your teeth their strongest for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.

Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

April 10th, 2024

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself habitually chewing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to visit our Sioux Falls, SD office.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a mucous cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • Sleep Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding. When sleepers unconsciously clench or grind their teeth as they slumber, it’s known as sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism not only causes tooth damage, jaw problems, and facial pain—that nightly gnashing can mean bites to delicate cheek tissue.

  • Problems with Dental Restorations

The placement of a crown, bridge, or implant can cause biting to occur more often if the alignment of your restoration with your other teeth isn’t ideal or has shifted, or if the restoration needs replacement.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. When wisdom teeth come in, they can lead to cheek bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks.

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem.  When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks might feel the consequences.

Treatment Options

Why see Dr. Cody Henriksen? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or even a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, both pain and sore spot fade in a short while, and saltwater rinses or oral gels can soothe your injured cheek tissue. Your dentist’s office can give you advice on treating minor bites.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue in the cheeks can thicken or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, Dr. Cody Henriksen can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Sleep Bruxism?

Dr. Cody Henriksen might suggest a nightguard to provide protection from the damaging effects of bruxism. Nightguards not only prevent further biting, they give your cheeks the chance to heal. We can custom fabricate a guard for the most comfortable and effective fit.

  • Restoration Problems?

If regular cheek biting occurs after you’ve gotten a crown, a bridge, or an implant, visit our Sioux Falls, SD office. This might be a problem that can be resolved with a bit of reshaping, whether removing a bit of the restoration or building up a spot. If a crown or other restoration has shifted or is failing, replacement might be in order.

  • No Room for Wisdom Teeth?

Most of us don’t have room in our mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth, and extracting them is a common dental procedure. Wisdom teeth can be the source of many dental problems, including impaction, shifting teeth, and even damage to surrounding teeth. If you see signs that your wisdom teeth are starting to come in, talk to your dentist about your options.

  • Orthodontic Problems?

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Modern orthodontic treatment offers patients of all ages more options than ever before, including traditional and lingual braces, clear aligners, and functional appliances.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit Dental Comfort Center for the answers to your biting problems.

Foods that Can Harm Enamel

April 3rd, 2024

Many people who are careful about brushing and flossing their teeth wonder how they still end up with cavities or tooth decay. Several factors affect wear and tear on tooth enamel. Diet is a major factor, with certain foods increasing the likelihood that your enamel will become discolored or decayed. Pay close attention to the foods you eat to keep your pearly whites looking healthy and clean.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel refers to the hard, semi-translucent, whitish part of the tooth that shows above your gums. The enamel is primarily composed of minerals that are strong but susceptible to highly acidic foods. When acid reacts with the minerals in enamel, it results in tooth decay. Strongly pigmented foods can also damage enamel by discoloring the surface of the tooth.

Foods that harm enamel

Acidic foods are the greatest source of enamel damage. To determine whether a food is acidic, look up its pH. Scientists use pH, on a one-to-seven scale, to define the relative acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Foods with low pH levels, between a one and three, are high in acidity and may damage your enamel. Foods with high pH levels, such as a six or seven, are far less likely to cause enamel harm.

So which foods should you avoid? Many fruits are high in acidity, including lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. The high sugar and acid content in soda makes it another huge contributor to enamel decay. Moderately acidic foods include pineapple, oranges, tomatoes, cottage cheese, maple syrup, yogurt, raisins, pickles, and honey. The foods that are least likely to cause enamel damage include milk, most cheeses, eggs, and water.

Beverages such as red wine and coffee also damage the enamel by discoloring it. Although stains do not necessarily undermine the integrity of your teeth, they can be unsightly.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to prevent your enamel from discoloring or decaying. The easiest way to avoid decay is to steer clear of high-acidity foods. This may not always be possible, but eliminating sugary fruit juices and soda from your diet is a good start. Brushing your teeth after each meal and flossing frequently also preserves your enamel. Another good idea is to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after eating to wash away high-acidity particles.

Although enamel damage is common, it does not have to be an inevitable occurrence. Knowing the foods that harm your teeth gives you the tools to prevent discoloration and decay. With some easy preventive measures, your teeth will stay strong and white for years to come! Give us a call at Dental Comfort Center to learn more!

Snowball Effect

April 3rd, 2024

Winter and its snowball fights are behind us, true, but there might be another kind of snowball heading your way—the snowball effect you risk when small dental concerns are ignored and left to grow into much more serious dental problems.

Here are three early symptoms that might seem minor, but shouldn’t be overlooked:

Sensitivity

Ouch! A sip of something hot, a spoonful of something cold, and you find yourself wincing because your teeth are so sensitive. If this sensitivity continues, call Dr. Cody Henriksen. Tooth sensitivity can be a sign of:

  • Bad Brushing Technique

Heavy handed brushing and hard-bristled brushes can be so abrasive that they cause enamel erosion and gum recession, making teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. Your dentist and hygienist can recommend proper brushing techniques for clean and healthy teeth and gums.

  • Receding Gums

Without treatment, receding gums can pull further away from the teeth, creating pockets filled with bacteria. Serious infections can develop in these pockets, leading to loose teeth, bone loss, and, eventually, tooth loss.

  • Cavities

When a cavity has gotten large enough that it’s reached below the enamel into the more sensitive dentin, you can experience unpleasant twinges when eating or drinking hot, cold, or sweet foods, or even when air hits your teeth. It’s essential to treat any cavity before it grows large enough to reach the tooth’s pulp.

Persistent Bad Breath

Sure, it could have been that garlic anchovy pizza, but if you’ve eliminated odor-causing foods from your diet, if you brush and floss regularly and still have bad breath, it could be a sign of:

  • Gum Disease

The bacteria that cause gum infections have a distinct, unpleasant odor. If thorough brushing and flossing isn’t helping, it’s important to visit our Sioux Falls, SD office to prevent more serious gum disease from developing.

  • Oral Infections

Bad breath can be caused by infections in the tooth, gums, or other oral tissues. If you experience persistent bad breath, a foul smell or taste in your mouth, or see any other signs of infection, see Dr. Cody Henriksen promptly for a diagnosis. Left untreated, oral infections can damage teeth, tissue, and bone and spread to other areas of the body.

  • Medical Conditions

Bad breath can also be a symptom of medical conditions such as diabetes, sinus infections, and liver disease. If your dentist rules out dental issues as the cause of halitosis, it’s important to see your doctor for a checkup.

Intermittent Pain

When dental pain comes and goes, you might be tempted to postpone a checkup. But recurring pain can be a symptom of serious dental conditions, including:

  • Infection and Abscess

If you feel pain when you bite down, or throbbing pain around a tooth, it could be the sign of pulp inflammation or infection. Pulp injuries should always be treated immediately to avoid an abscess, a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. An abscess isn’t just painful, it’s dangerous, because it can cause bone loss around the tooth and spread infection throughout the body if not treated promptly.

  • Tooth Injury

Tooth trauma is a reason for an emergency call to your dentist. A cracked or broken tooth won’t get better on its own and should be treated at once to prevent infection and further damage.

  • Bruxism  

It’s no wonder you wake up with tooth and jaw pain when you grind your teeth—your jaws are producing hundreds of pounds of pressure on your teeth all night long. Over time, constant grinding will damage enamel and can chip and even crack teeth. Check out options like custom nightguards for healthier teeth and a better night’s sleep.

  • Malocclusion

Malocclusion is the medical term for a bad bite, a condition that is the result of your teeth and/or jaws not fitting together properly. As well as tooth and jaw pain and damaged teeth, misalignments cause many other difficulties in your daily life. Talk to your dentist about how orthodontic treatment can improve the health and appearance of your smile.

Don’t ignore “little” dental problems like these. For any persistent symptoms, Dental Comfort Center is just a phone call away, to help you prevent those little problems from snowballing into major dental worries.

4501 E 41st St, Sioux Falls, SD 57110
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